On December 11, 2017, the Plano City Council will vote on a new noise ordinance. Originally, the ordinance was placed on the consent agenda at the June City Council meeting. The consent agenda is a list of items to be voted on in one motion; the items of which are supposed to be non-controversial. These items cannot be publicly debated unless removed by a council member or resident. If you are like me, you are probably thinking, "Who thought a new noise ordinance would be non-controversial?" According to a city staffer, the legal department, which is headed by Page Mims, recommended the ordinance be placed on the consent agenda. At the June Meeting, the ordinance was removed from the consent agenda by a resident of Plano. After public comment, the City Council delayed the vote until Dec. 11, 2017, because new council members wanted time to do research.
The city scheduled two public input meetings; one on October 23 at 10 a.m, and the other on October 26 at 1 p.m. They did not schedule a nighttime meeting, and people inquired about the reason for this. The staff claimed it was an oversight. “An oversight my tuchus!”
At one meeting, most people were concerned with Plano getting louder. The proposed ordinance is...
Residential Day: 65 dB or 5 dB above background noise level, whichever is greater.
Residential Night: 55 dB or 5 dB above background noise level, whichever is greater.
Non-residential Day: 75 dB or 5 dB above background noise level, whichever is greater.
Non-residential Night: 65 dB or 5 dB above background noise level, whichever is greater...
There are two problems with these numbers. One, the city did not put a level for mixed-use areas. These areas have both homes, restaurants, and retail. There is going to be more noise in these areas than in an area with only houses.
The second problem with these numbers is they are too high. Research has been done on the effects of noise on a person's health. The following is a small sample of the research done:
“About two-thirds of the residents in the study lived in the areas that regularly experienced noise at the 50- to 60-decibel level, and almost half of them had high blood pressure when the study began. Over the next 10 years, there were 71 newly diagnosed cases of hypertension.
A study, in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that for each 10-decibel increase in noise at night, the risk of developing hypertension more than doubled. Cardiac arrhythmia was also associated with nighttime exposure.” (The NY Times)
“A growing body of evidence links noise from a variety of sources, including air, rail, road traffic, and industrial activity to adverse health outcomes. Studies have found that kids attending school in louder areas have more behavioral problems and perform worse on exams. Adults exposed to higher noise levels report higher levels of annoyance and sleep disturbances.
Scientists theorize that since evolution programmed the human body to respond to noises as threats, noise exposures activate our natural flight-or-fight response. Noise exposure triggers the release of stress hormones, which can raise our heart rates and blood pressure even during sleep. Long-term consequences of these reactions include high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lower birth weight.
In 2009 the World Health Organization released a report detailing nighttime noise guidelines for Europe. The report shows that cognitive impacts, sleep disturbance, mental health and cardiovascular effects could occur at noise levels commonly experienced in urban environments. They recommended reducing noise levels when possible, and reducing the impact of noise when levels could not be moderated. For example, the guidelines recommended locating bedrooms on the quiet sides of houses, away from street traffic, and keeping nighttime noise levels below 40 decibels to protect human health.” (phys.org)
The Toronto Public Health has reviewed the evidence that it has accumulated since the WHO evaluation. They have found,"Newer evidence confirms that health impacts can occur at levels between 42 and 60 dBA outdoors. The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has recommendations for road-related noise thresholds: for sensitive land uses, such as residential uses, mitigation measures are required if outdoor levels at the center of a window or door opening exceed 55 dBA daytime or 50 dBA nighttime."
The city's ordinance levels are way too high. The levels should be between 40-55 dBA in residential areas. We should not continue to build multi-use developments. It is just not possible for those areas to be within the healthy decibel rage for residents. An exception should be made for AC units which run louder than 70 dBA if you are standing next to them.
If you care about your health, I recommend you write to the city and council members to reduce the decibel levels. Also, go to the City Council meeting on Dec. 11th and speak against the ordinance the way it is written. You can read the ordinance by clicking on the following links.
The Proposed Noise Ordinance https://www.plano.gov/DocumentCenter/View/27160
Summary of changes to the existing noise ordinance
This is The Plano Political Pit Bull signing off.